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Gilderdale & Croglin Fells / 2 days / 26 miles (42km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 06 Aug 2005
Start / Finish: Alston. Free car park in the town centre.
Maps: Explorer 031 North Pennines { + a tiny bit of 005 Lakes NE }.

Day 1Black Fell & Thack Moor11 miles / 1970 feet (17.7km / 600m)
Day 2Blotting Raise, Croglin Fell & Grey Nag14.5 miles / 2110 feet (23.3km / 643m)

A circuit of the remote North West Pennine hills around Gilderdale and Croglin Water, a mixture of hard rough moorland, pathless but easier terrain and some very easy walking. The route was deserted throughout save for one person, a good choice for a weekend in August.

Day 1 - Black Fell & Thack Moor

From Alston there is an easy start on the Pennine Way NW for a couple of miles to 703474, where we diverged up an old walled quarry track that climbs gradually SW above Gilderdale. Where it bends R and starts to descend, a less prominent track continues ascending to a fence junction by a hut. We veered R to follow the fence along Horse Edge, a pathless but relatively easy line where patches of the colourful bog asphodel were in flower, to reach the cairn on Benty Hill. The morning mist had cleared the tops by now apart from Cross Fell, but the wind was really cold for early August as we continued along the somewhat tussocky ridge to Hartside Height. The going now becomes surprisingly easy on soft grass around the head of Gilderdale for the ascent to the trig point on Black Fell. The visibility was good and there would be striking views for the rest of the day, especially westwards to the Lake district.

Benty Hill
Benty Hill (06 Aug 2005__12:56:50)
Black Fell and Thack Moor
Black Fell and Thack Moor (06 Aug 2005__13:45:21)
Cross Fell from Black Fell
Cross Fell from Black Fell (06 Aug 2005__14:41:28)
View from Black Fell
View from Black Fell (06 Aug 2005__14:43:46)

A fence indicates the line along the NW ridge above Croglin Water, which rises very close to the summit. Where the fence kinks L, we diverged R over rough moor to a tributary stream to collect water and returned to the ridge line, now accompanied by a wall. A cross wall is easily climbed at the wall junction and a gradual ascent gains the top of Watch Hill. Just beyond on a small rise is a partly collapsed memorial cairn with a barely legible stone tablet on the side.

The broad ridge continues westwards and curves around to a wall corner, where a couple of tied up gates allow progress beyond to Thack Moor. The wall that traverses the hill is straddled by posts supporting stout barbed wire, so starting on the E side, an easy climb gains the grassy summit where the trig point is on the W side very close to the wall. We made our pitch and enjoyed the extensive views to the West and North.

Memorial cairn on Watch Hill
Memorial cairn on Watch Hill (06 Aug 2005__16:17:04)
Howgills and Cumbrian Fells from Thack Moor
Howgills and Cumbrian Fells from Thack Moor (06 Aug 2005__18:42:04)

Day 2 - Blotting Raise, Croglin Fell & Grey Nag

There was some rain in the night but the dawn was cloudless and superbly clear, with a thin sea of mist over the Vale of Eden, though it was pretty cold with a chilling wind. Continuing along the wall and descending NE over easy grass, we joined a small stream on the R side and collected water where it flows through a wall. Arriving at Croglin Water, which has quickly gathered strength from the source high on Black Fell, the valley is a very attractive and deserted spot with small tumbling waterfalls.

Dawn mist and mountains from Thack Moor pitch
Dawn mist and mountains from Thack Moor pitch (07 Aug 2005__06:05:05)
Blotting Raise from Thack Moor descent
Blotting Raise from Thack Moor descent (07 Aug 2005__07:05:40)
Croglin Water
Croglin Water (07 Aug 2005__08:11:14)
Waterfall on Croglin Water
Waterfall on Croglin Water (07 Aug 2005__08:13:09)

Fording it to the N side, just possible without wading in summer, we climbed up to join an intermittent tractor track that traverses NW and becomes a surfaced shooters track near Lunchy Beck. Passing a large hut, the track ascends gently to 594485 and a hairpin R climbs directly to a gate in the ridge wall and a T-junction. Turning L for a short way, the trig point on Blotting Raise lies just off the track over rough heather, tussocks and peat, and there is a small tarn to the W just below the top. The clarity of the views was excellent.

View from Blotting Raise
View from Blotting Raise (07 Aug 2005__10:02:16)

Returning to the T-junction, the track has been extended further than shown on the map. It now makes a superb easy promenade along the ridge with grand views, traversing Croglin Fell as far as White Sike (626487). Here it ends abruptly and the easiest line initially is alongside the wall, but even this gives up, leaving a short stretch of very rough wet moor to reach a stile in the adjoining ridge fence. It was now a matter of picking our way SE along the ridge fence, almost 2 miles of soggy moorland and peat groughs, to reach Tom Smith's Stone, a 4-sided pillar with the letters A, C, K and W inscribed. Heading NE initially on the R of the fence, we crossed to the L as we approached the very flat Tom Smith's Stone Top and attendant pool, one of the least charismatic summits of England and barely detectable as a top. A soggy tractor track assisted progress to the final summit of Grey Nag, where there were distant clear views in all directions.

Tom Smith's Stone Top
Tom Smith's Stone Top (07 Aug 2005__13:46:42)
View from Grey Nag summit
View from Grey Nag summit (07 Aug 2005__14:13:17)

Heading E along the adjoining wall a short way, we crossed it through a wired gap and crossed the fence below. The pathless slopes SE brought us to a dense area of bracken near Woldgill Scar, the waterfall being almost dry today. The route NE along Gilderdale Burn is always an adventure and we have never followed exactly the same line twice, but generally we try to keep to the L side and climb around obstacles like sheer riverbanks, only fording when necessary. In any event the route in the lower reaches must be on the L, and the Pennine Way footbridge is reached. Crossing the bridge, we climbed to join the outward route.

Gilderdale (07 Aug 2005__15:42:06)